Deweyism In The Local Church -- By: Darrell Seest

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 10:3 (Fall 1967)
Article: Deweyism In The Local Church
Author: Darrell Seest


Deweyism In The Local Church

Darrell Seest

To understand Deweyism in the local church, it is important first to understand the philosophy of John Dewey and how he incorporated his philosophy into the field of education. After setting down the principles of his philosophy of education, it will be possible to determine more accurately how these principles have been incorporated into the work of the local church. Dewey’s philosophy has not been restricted to just one part of the local church; it has permeated almost every area of the church. Dewey’s philosophy has not only found its way into liberal and modernistic churches, but it has also corrupted some fundamental churches, and even has nullified many of the efforts of fundamental Baptist churches.

I. Dewey’s Philosophy And Its Relation To Education

American education was just about a century old when John Dewey came on the scene. He was born in 1859 (the year Darwin’s Origin of Species was published) in Burlington, Vermont, the third of four sons in the family of a local grocer. He graduated from high school at the age of 15 and went on to the University of Vermont where he came in contact with views of Hegel, Darwin, Huxley, and Comte. At this time he began to develop his philosophy. He graduated from the University of Vermont in 1879 and received a doctorate in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University in 1884. His extensive teaching career began that year at the University of Michigan. It extended to the University of Chicago in 1894 and Columbia University in 1904. It was while he was at Columbia that his philosophy and its relation to education was fully developed and expressed.

Dewey’s philosophy is best referred to as Instrumentalism. Experience is the key word in Instrumentalism. Dewey’s philosophy is of and for daily experience. Since we live in a temporary existence, there is real movement and progress in time. Secondly, since we are living for the present in view of the future, the past has little significance to us. In other words, why bother with history since our experiences in this scientific age are so much different from those of history? A third aspect is the view that the world can be made better by our own efforts. Dewey in applying this third factor to education believed that if everyone were educated properly in view of the society as a whole, we could do away with slums,

diseases, wars, poverty, or in a sense make a “heaven” on earth. A basic concept can be derived from these three points. This concept or theory would be that Dewey’s main concern was the adjustment of the individual to his or her environment in society. Those points are the main tenets of his philosophy.

II. ...
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